A Mentored Life

coffeecup4.jpgI recently read an article in the latest edition (2008) of the Journal of Beeson Divinity School (Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama).  The article, entitled "A Mentored Life," was written by Dr. Russell J. Levenson Jr.  In the article, Levenson describes his relationship with one of his mentors: John Claypool. (Claypool is the author of Tracks of a Fellow Struggler and other fine books.  Claypool died in 2005.)

The article speaks of what Levenson learned from his mentor.

This care and love continued throughout my ministry, both when I was under his supervision and when I left to go on to my first and subsequent calls to parish leadership.  John made certain to remember my family and me through phone calls, letters, and on holidays.  He was always willing to talk when there had been a rough week or when I faced a personal dilemma.  A leading author on leadership, Klaus Bockmuehl, writes in his book Living By the Gospel (Helmers & Howard, 1986), "Shepherding people means to help them grow: it demands thoughtfulness about ‘how to make the other one great’ and it implies nothing less than the act of true friendship for others."  Ultimately, selfless friendship is what the mentored life is all about.  Thankfully, that’s exactly what I received from John.  (6)

We rarely hear or read of mutual relationships any more.  We seem to laud and magnify the individual and pay homage to "self-made" men and women, rather than recognize the relationships that undergird those successes.  I was often baffled by seminarians who so eagerly wished to begin "on their own."  There is a wealth of knowledge and experience in those who have gone before us, and if we are willing, we will learn and grow by sitting quietly at the feet of others as so many did at the feet of our Lord.  It is crucial in our self-centered world to live up to the call to humbly share our lives with others, while also being willing to receive the lives shared. (8)

Have you ever had such a mentor in your life?  Have you ever desired such a mentor?

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2 thoughts on “A Mentored Life

  1. This is one of the areas that the church seems to be failing in.  Personally, I have had a great relationship with a mentor for about seven years.  It has made all the difference in ministry.  But there are plenty of young man entering the ministry will look oversight of their development.  Elders seem typically weak in this area, and sometimes the older minister does not give enough time to this work.www.matthewsblog.waynesborochurchofchrist.org  

  2. Jim- I had the opportunity to teach a class on mentoring at a seminary in the Ukraine. I was surprised to learn that in these countries of the former Soviet Union, mentoring is an entirely new concept. The whole idea of having deep, personal relationships based on a high degree of trust was difficult for my students to grasp and even more challenging to put into practice. For generations under communism one did not even trust family members, let alone outsiders. My students were quick to confide in me and the other visiting profs, but hesitant to trust each other, even among brothers in Christ. Yet they all affirmed and admitted their need for a trusted mentor. I was amazed and somewhat baffled.